Tuesday, February 12, 2013
P2P and Fan Fiction
P2P: Pulled To Publish
Okay, first of all, I'm not opposed to fan fiction. I love it. I've read some fantastic stuff online, and I have no problems whatsoever with people who write it or read it. I even wrote some, back in the day. I didn't put it online, but I think it's great that people do. And if it was left online, that would be fine.
Where it gets murky for me, is when that fiction is picked up by an agent or publisher, and pulled to publish. I have no problem with writers of fanfiction being discovered this way. But what I do think should happen is an agent or publisher should be able to say, "That's fabulous. Now show me something original."
Fifty Shades of Grey is probably the most famous example. It started as very NSFW Twilight fanfic. I never read it, because I was never a Twilight fan. And while there were occasions I wanted to slap Bella around as well, let's just say that she wouldn't have enjoyed it so much.
(There is an awful lot of NSFW stuff in fanfic...
...but that might be a topic for another day.)
So what happens when something is pulled to publish? Well, obviously if you intend to ask for payment for your former fanfic, then you're in serious danger of breaching someone else's copyright. So you change the names, and change the details, and maybe change pretty much everything, but is that enough?
Legally, maybe. Ethically, I don't think so.
Because you built your story in someone else's world. You took someone else's intellectual property, your altered it, and you sold it. And I think that's wrong.
Cassandra Clare is a very successful writer who has been accused of copyright infringement. And yeah, there appears to be some evidence of it back in her fanfic days. Bad form, sure, but this is fanfic on the internet. Nobody particularly cares, and why should they? Nobody was making any money from it, and I presume that the suspect passages were removed long before the books were published as The Mortal Instruments series. What bothers me the most is that what remains, however disguised, was built from someone else's world. In this case, J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter books. And that's where I have an issue with the ethics of P2P.
If you want to write for profit, then create your own characters and build your own words. Don't be a cheap knock-off of an original. There is a very, very thin line between a homage and a copy. It's as thin as the line between legal and ethical, I suppose.
If you want to write for pleasure, then go nuts. I've got this great idea where Harry and Draco get trapped in a dragon's cave and Sam and Dean from Supernatural have to rescue them... but I'd never expect you to pay for it.
Where does everyone else stand on P2P?